Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

See other formats


The  Echidna  feeds  like  anteaters,  by  thrusting  its toii£
into an ant-hill, and waiting  until it  is covered with indigm
and   marauding   ants,   which   are   then   swallowed.      But   t!
animal also devours worms and insects, \vhicli are extracted fix
their hiding-places by the tongue.     It is mainly nocturnal, a
prefers the seclusion of the densest scrubs of the bush, or roc
spots where it is free from intrusion.     Dr. Senion did not fii
that  the  spur  of this  animal  was  used  at  all  in self-defeiic
but  he  thinks  that  possibly  the  weapon   may be  used,  in  tJ
breeding season only, in the combats of the males for the femalt
when perhaps, as has been shown to be the case in Ornithorhy.
chus, the gland attached to it produces a poisonous secretion.
The  egg, as  it  appears, is  transferred  to   the  pouch by tl
mouth   of  the   mother ;   the   shell  is   broken  by   the   emergin
young one,   which  has  an egg-breaking   tubercle   on   its   sriou
for this purpose;   the   mother  removes   the   shell.     When th
young has attained a  certain  size, the mother removes  it  froi
the pouch, but takes it in from time to time to suckle it.     Wliej
on her nightly rambles the young one is left in a burrow duj
for the purpose.    Dr. Semon was able, from his own observations
to   sxibstantiate   this   act   of   intelligence   on   the   part   of   th<
Echidna.     It is well known that the temperature of the Mono-
tremes is less than that of higher mammals ;  in addition to thie
fact Dr. Semon found  that  the  range  of variation of tempera-
ture in the Echidna was as much as 13 degrees or more.     It is
thus intermediate between the ** poikilothermal" reptiles and the
" homoeotherrnal" mammals.
Fern. 2. OrnithorhyncMdae.—There is no need to attempt to
define this family, since it contains but one genus OrnithorJiT/nchus,
with but one species, O. anatinus. The general aspect of the
animal is well known. It is covered with dense fur of a blackish
brown colour; the limbs are short and five-toed, the toes being
webbed. The tail is longish and broad, being flattened from
above downwards. The webbing on the anterior toes consider-
ably outdistances the tips of the claws, as in the Seals. But this
is not the case with the hind-feet. The " beak/* which is broad
and flat, and does actually suggest that of a duck, is not covered
with horn, as is often stated, but with a fine, soft, sensitive, naked
skin, which abounds in sense-organs of a tactile nature. As to
characters derived from the skeleton, OrnitJiorhynchus has seven-